Thirteen years ago today, my mother, my best friend –and the funniest Mexican I’ve ever met– quietly passed away in a small hospital room in Mexico City.
While her (sudden and premature) death was the worst thing me and my siblings have had to endure, she left us the one thing no one will ever take away from us: A sense of humor that –she assured us– was the only way to go through life, no matter how tough the shit got going.
Cuquita told the dorkiest jokes and made the funniest remarks about being divorced, poor, underemployed, uneducated, hungover, drunk, uninsured, etc. etc. (“I have saved enough money to last me until the day I die … as long as I die tomorrow,” she used to say often –while cracking up….or “If I didn’t know this was a hangover… I’d rush to the nearest emergency room.” har har har.)
And then there’s my personal favorite. Once, during a heated discussion with us (her kids) giving her a hard time over something, she stops and yells at us: “DO YOU GUYS EVEN KNOW WHY I NEVER WENT TO HARVARD?” … Silence ensued, I mean, fuuuuuuck, we don’t know about that thing… Why? my sister asks almost embarrassed for not knowing.
“Because I didn’t finish elementary school! JA JA JA,” goes my mother….
Ok, you get the picture. I don’t exaggerate when I say Cuquita contributed to at least half all the Spanish slang and idiomatic expressions I used in Think Dirty Spanish. She would often call in the middle of the night with the great news that she had found –yet– another expression she’d love to see in the book. “¡Mosquita muerta!.. a ver ¿cómo dicen eso los gringos?”
We traveled the world together.
We went to shady tango joints in Buenos Aires; gigantic farmer markets in Los Angeles and colorful tavernas in Valparaíso, Chile. Once, on a trip between Santiago and Buenos Aires, right in the middle of the Andes, our plane had an engine failure and for a few, terrifying moments, we thought we would die right there. But then, as I hyperventilated and yelled in panic for a Valium or something, my mother started laughing out loud at our poor Argentine pilot, who was so distressed, he couldn’t even speak properly. Favor de no formor, he asked us, instead of Favor de no fumar.
BUAHAHAHAHAHA, my mom and I had a fit of hysterical, uncontrollable laughter.
Damn you, Cuquita! ¡Qué divertido era viajar juntas!
My favorite were her months-long visits to New York, when we’d roam the city in search of “real genuine stuff” to cook authentic Mexican things, but more often than not ended up in some fancy steakhouse drinking wine, cubas libres and eating meat like there was no tomorrow. (Oh, and did I mention the marathonic poker sessions?)
Cuquita spoke NO ENGLISH whatsoever, but none of that mattered, because in Nueva York, everyone knew her and spoke Spanish to her. My friends, my colleagues, my neighbors, the super, the bodega guy… todos.
To this day, no matter if I’m in CDMX or not, I know Cuquita will always have an altar in her home for Día de Muertos featuring some of her favorites: chocolates, pan de muerto, cigarettes and cubas libres (with flat Coke, which she seemed to favor –for some reason.) ¡Gracias, Catus!
I might be in Greece, but there’s an altar in Mexico for my beloved mom. (Cigarros & cuba libre, ¿qué más?). #Cuquita #DíaDeMuertos pic.twitter.com/DSEjqphium
— Laura Martínez ®️ (@miblogestublog) 31 de octubre de 2017
I’m not sure where she is right now. But if there’s anything going on UP THERE, in the so-called afterlife, I’m sure she’s serving the cubas libres, setting up the poker table, telling the jokes –and having a blast.
Te quiero, mami. ❤❤